House Republicans will call up legislation next week that requires weekly reports from the Obama administration on how many people are using the HealthCare.gov website and signing up for health insurance under the law.
Since the launch of the troubled website in October, the administration has offered sporadic updates about participation. But those updates have mostly frustrated Republicans who are seeking more detailed data, and who are also pressing for more information about what officials are doing to fix the websites various problems.
The bill up next week, H.R. 3362, would address both complaints. First, it would require weekly updates on the number of unique website visitors, new accounts, and new enrollments in a qualified health plan, as well as the level of coverage. All of this data would have to be provided on a state-by-state basis.
Secondly, it would require a weekly update on efforts to fix problems people have had logging into the website and enrolling in coverage. Reports detailing all of this information would have to be submitted to Congress every Monday until the end of March 2015.
The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), said in November that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must give states data about statewide enrollment if they are to help implement the law. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who sponsored a Senate version of the bill, said there's no reason why HHS can't provide the data on a regular basis.
"With Wikileaks and Edward Snowden spilling our beans every day, what's happening on the Obamacare exchanges is the only secret left in Washington," he said in October. "The National Security Administration should learn some lessons from Secretary Sebelius."
One of the pieces of information Republicans want is the extent to which young, healthy people are signing up versus those more likely to need medical care. The bill from Terry and Alexander doesn't require that information, but it does require weekly reports on enrollees by zip code, which could provide clues about the kind of people signing up for coverage.
Additionally, Republicans have demanded information about how many people have actually made their first monthly payment for an ObamaCare health plan. But the bill does not address this issue, and as payments are made directly to insurance companies, it's not expected that the government would have this information.
The administration has said most recently that 2.1 million people have enrolled in the federally-run exchanges; it is not clear how many of them have paid.
Republicans have also criticized ObamaCare navigators — hired to help consumers sign up for health insurance — for encouraging people in some cases to lie about their income or other personal data in order to get the best price possible. The bill addresses this issue by requiring the government to make public a list of healthcare navigators, including their contact information, partner organizations and subcontractors.
House GOP leaders are scheduled to take up Terry's legislation on Friday, the same day members will consider a separate bill requiring HHS to tell people when the personal data given to HealthCare.gov has been compromised.
— Jonathan Easley contributed.